York tests positive for cocaine

Cocaine mapped across campus

A Nouse investigation has found positive results in tests for cocaine at 24 different locations on campus. Positive sites include Heslington Hall, the University’s main administrative centre.

The tests, carried out using specialised cocaine swabs, yielded positive results in toilets in the Sports centre, the departments of Music, Economics and Chemistry, the Information Centre and Grimston House. Positive results were found in Derwent, Langwith, Vanbrugh, Wentworth, James, and Alcuin colleges.

The swabs also tested positive for cocaine in six separate toilets spread across all four floors of the Library.

Nouse reporters carried out positive tests in three separate toilets in Heslington Hall – including a unisex toilet on the first floor, where the offices of the Vice-Chancellor, the University’s Finance Director, the Registrar and the Chair of University Council are housed.

Positive results were also found in the men’s and women’s toilets in the building’s basement, home to the University’s Press and Communications offices.

Disabled toilets in Derwent, Chemistry, the Library and the Information Centre all tested positive. The larger space of a disabled toilet is sometimes taken advantage of when a number of users take cocaine together.

When contacted with the results, the University would not make any staff available for interview. In a statement the University said: “The University obviously takes this issue very seriously, and we will look into the results of Nouse’s investigation as a matter of urgency.” A University spokesperson would not comment on what steps would be taken to follow up the findings.

Positive locations

Heslington Hall
Basement: Men and Women
First Floor: Unisex
Information Centre
Ground Floor: Disabled
First floor: Men
Derwent Main: Disabled and Men
Alcuin JCR: Women
Vanbrugh Main: Women
Langwith Main: Women
Wentworth Main: Men
James JCR: Unisex
Ground Floor: Disabled
Ground Floor: Women and Disabled
First Floor: Women
Second Floor: Women and Men
Third Floor: Women
Computer Science
First Floor: Men
Grimston House
Ground Floor: Unisex
Sports Centre
Ground Floor: Men
First Floor: Women
Ground Floor: Men

The spokesperson refused to comment when asked if cocaine use was thought to be a problem among staff.

In the statement the University added that it felt it would be “premature to draw any firm conclusion from these results” and queried the methodology and equipment used by Nouse, despite not asking to see the positive swabs nor seeking details of how the investigation was carried out.

The swabs were purchased from Crackdown Drug Testing Limited, a Manchester-based drug testing company. The company is the primary producer of cocaine swabs in Britain and supplies equipment to the Metropolitan, Greater Manchester, Nott­inghamshire and South Yorkshire police forces as well as the Prison Service.

While unlikely to be used as court evidence, swabs produced by Crackdown are standard issue for field tests for cocaine carried out by a number of law enforcement agencies. A positive field test would usually be sent back to a forensics laboratory for further investigation.

Dave Rigg, a spokesperson for Crackdown, said: “We have complete confidence in the kit. If it tests positive it is almost definite that someone has been snorting cocaine from that surface.”

The swabs contain the chemical compound cobalt thiocyanate, which turns blue when it comes into contact with cocaine, or ‘crack’ – the drug’s smoked variant cut with another substance, most commonly baking powder. Cobalt thiocyanate is one of the most commonly used chemical compounds in drug testing equipment.

The testing was carried out between Wednesday morning and Thursday evening of last week.

A control experiment was carried out on Wednesday morning in which verified cocaine was put on a surface and then swept off. When the surface was swabbed shortly afterwards it tested positive.

YUSU Academic and Welfare Officer-elect Charlie Leyland said: “I’m shocked by cocaine’s prevalence on campus. Just a single use of cocaine potentially puts you at risk of heart failure and death, never mind the long term myriad of problems that are often exaggerated and caused by drug misuse.”

Investigations using similar or identical cocaine swabs have been carried out at the universities of Exeter and Cambridge and the European Parliament. In 2005 reporters from German television broadcaster Sat-1 found 41 positive tests of cocaine inside toilets and offices in the European Parliament building in Brussels. The findings were later confirmed by lab results.


  1. “In the statement the University added that it felt it would be “premature to draw any firm conclusion from these results” and queried the methodology and equipment used by Nouse, despite not asking to see the positive swabs nor seeking details of how the investigation was carried out.”

    Who’s writing this rubbish? This paragraph isn’t reporting, it’s suggesting that the University should have done something. “Despite” is such a loaded term, no wonder no-one has claimed a by-line.

    Reply Report

  2. Yeah, I’ve often seen people taking coke in the library. It’s the ideal place to do it.

    Reply Report

  3. Cocaine found on the bottom floor of Grimston. Isn’t that where Nouse is based?

    Reply Report

  4. 29 May ’08 at 9:31 am

    Tom Fitz-Hugh

    Shitometer, I think the word “despite” in the paragraph you quote is not suggesting that the university should do something, but rather is criticising the university for querying the investigation without seeking to clarify how it took place. This seems to me a perfectly reasonable criticism to make.

    For the record, although I write for Nouse I had nothing whatsoever to do with this article, and have no more knowledge of anything related to it than any other reader.

    Reply Report

  5. I reckon Sanchez had just been racking up between swabs. BUSTED!

    Reply Report

  6. I’m confused – is this a story about cocaine use on campus or the poor cleaning of the toilet facilities???

    Reply Report

  7. 29 May ’08 at 4:55 pm

    Joseph Burnham

    You’re aware that those tests are detecting cocaine use for the entire 50+ years of the University’s existence? Theoretically, this could have all occured during a few months in the 70s – I’d be skeptical about considering it a recent trend. I’d suggest only including data from extremely new blocks/toilets, and even that has serious methodological problems.

    Reply Report

  8. Wait… students at university do drugs? That’s a scoop and a half.

    No, say it ain’t so.

    Reply Report

  9. 3 Jun ’08 at 5:00 pm

    Pablo Escobar

    I think every here knows that drugs really aren’t a issue in York, the fact is York as a city and as a university has hardly any exposure to drugs, especially when compared to places nearby such as Leeds. As a topic this is a non-starter, its not a problem, and is very unlikely ever to be one.

    Reply Report

  10. 4 Jun ’08 at 9:59 am

    Absolute Nonsense

    Cocaine isn’t the only pharmaceutical that reacts with Cobalt thiocynate – the antihistamine used in lots of OTC hayfever medications (most notably Benadryl) produces false positives on these tests. What with the time of year and all, reckon there’s at least a decent chance that this is part of the explanation for your positive results?

    Oh, an I hope that Nouse didn’t use their grant funds to purchase their control sample…

    Reply Report

  11. At least it’s a relative classy drug. Not quite like having heroin needles in Derwent toilet, is it.

    Reply Report

  12. 5 Jun ’08 at 7:51 am

    Th real Dan Taylor

    Editors, I didn’t write that last comment so please either remove it or remove the name in which it was posted under.


    Dan Taylor

    Reply Report

  13. With what money did you purchase your ‘control sample’, and from where? Unless you sourced it through official channels, the public admission that you purchased cocaine is a very serious error indeed. The editor of Nouse should step forward and explain his methods, before someone calls for a formal investigation.

    Reply Report

  14. Hang on a cotton-picking minute!

    (1) Where did Nouse acquire verified cocaine? Are you seriously suggesting that you broke the law and supported drug trafficking by purchasing, or condoning the purchase of, cocaine?

    (2) Cetirizine hydrochloride (allergy medicine) can trigger a cocaine test.

    The only people we can prove broke the law are you.

    Reply Report

  15. Hi Kato,

    Thank you for your comment.

    1) Nouse did not purchase cocaine and as far as I’m aware “condoning” the purchase of cocaine is not illegal. I think you would struggle to prove that anyone at Nouse broke the law.

    2) I have not seen anywhere that cetirizine hydrochloride can lead to false positive results. Even if it can, I find it unlikely that allergy medicine would be taken from a toilet cistern or lid, where the tests were carried out. As mentioned in the article, Crackdown is the primary producer of cocaine swabs in this country and supplies swabs to a number of Britain’s police forces.

    All the best,

    Raf Sanchez

    Reply Report

  16. Hang on! I’ve just read the Editor’s reply to my earlier post.

    Possession of cocaine is illegal. Nouse used verified cocaine to complete the test.

    So I’ll ask again: how did Nouse possess cocaine without breaking the law?

    If you really think I’ve got this wrong then why don’t you put your money where your mouth is and issue a writ for criminal libel?

    Reply Report

  17. Go Kato! You’re great!


    Clear concise points- MERIT

    Reply Report

Leave a comment

Please note our disclaimer relating to comments submitted. Please do not post pretending to be another person. Nouse is not responsible for user-submitted content.